Howard understands and respects Babcock’s decision to sit him Saturday but at the same time he didn’t like it

DETROIT – Two familiar names will be back in the Detroit Red Wings lineup Tuesday night on the road against the Florida Panthers.

One is returning from injury, while the other spent the last two games serving as the backup goalie.

Pavel Datsyuk has missed the last seven games with a concussion.

“I feel OK,” Datsyuk said after practice Monday at Joe Louis Arena. “Out of shape, but I feel OK.”

Datsyuk will start on a line with Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen.

“I can do lots of stuff in practice but in games it’s a different level,” Datsyuk said.

Datsyuk still leads the team with 12 goals and is second in points with 23.

“I thought Franzen was a star when Pav was out,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Leadership-wise, determination-wise, how he played, and so now that’s the benchmark. You don’t go back to the other guy, you continue to be what you’ve been and he should be proud of how he played and we need him to keep playing like that.”

In Jimmy Howard’s case it’s just been a matter of him not winning games. He’s is 6-8-6 this season with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

Howard’s last start was a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers last Wednesday where he made 28 saves.

“To be honest I don’t think I played any different than I did against the (New York) Islanders than I did against Philadelphia,” Howard said. “It’s just that the puck went in. I’m not going to change anything else. I’ve been very successful and I’ve come a long way with my game. I’m not just all of a sudden going to reinvent the wheel.”

Howard turned aside all 28 shots he faced against the Islanders in a 5-0 victory on Nov. 29.

What took Howard by surprise was when Babcock decided to start Jonas Gustavsson back-to-back nights rather than turn to him Saturday against the Panthers.

“I was really surprised,” Howard said. “We’re all competitors in here, we all want to play and we all want to be out there. I understand his decision. I have to respect his decision, but at the same time I don’t have to like it. I just have to continue working hard and keep getting better every day.”

Gustavsson suffered his first regulation loss of the season Saturday.


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